Perrywinkle

i’ve been to some amazing concerts in my lifetime. i’ve seen some great rock ‘n’ roll musicians and even some living legends. Most of these shows involve three to five musicians playing their heart out, encouraging the audience to dance, sing and sweat along with them. However, young audiences are far more sophisticated now. There needs to be more showmanship to hold attention spans. Everything must be extravagant, even to the point of obscuring the music.

A few years back i took my kids to see Muse. i’ve been following Muse for over a decade. An amazing trio of musicians, i’m thrilled they are getting the notoriety they deserve. i love to watch musicians, taking note of their style, technical prowess and manner of execution. There, on stage, were three amazingly gifted musicians, each with their distinct personalities and musical abilities. Matt Bellamy is absolutely a guitar master that combines Hendrix fretboard theatrics, Morello’s feral tones, with Page’s passion all while crooning with a stellar tenor vibrato not unlike Freddie Mercury or Geddy Lee. Then there’s Dominic Howard who executes distinct rhythmic music with Neil Peart creativity and Phil Collins pop sensibility. The ever stalwart Chris Wolstenholme pounds out growling, yet often melodic bass lines like a silent, gentle sentinel trying not to have fun.

This trio mix metal, progressive, alternative, electronic, pop, and classical music into an array of audio sensuality.  i really couldn’t wait to see their fingers, hands, feet, and mouths deliver visually what i’d been experiencing with my ears for years. Undoubtedly the best concert i’ve ever seen, rather, i couldn’t see. Even though i was fairly close, i couldn’t see the band execute their musicianship because of all the blinding lights gleaming, flashing, and glaring off of the instruments if not directly aimed into our retinas.

But that’s the way it is these days. The kiddies gotta have their bling and more of it: enthusiasm with four extra helpings; the theatrics on a world stage; light to rival sol. The desire for theatrical music shows like Gaga’s is huge. The demand on the performers is great, too. With all that singing and dancing and jumping and costuming and set changing it’s no wonder Britney has to lip sync.

Say what you will about Katy Perry and her cheeky hubby, but this girl has much to compete with. Ever since stating, “I Kissed A Girl,” this pastor’s kid has grown up, out and sideways to become a pop icon in just a few short years. No wonder she has to do 15 costume changes on her current tour. In fact, just to keep up with Spears, Lady G, and Madonna, KP pulls off eight of those wardrobe changes while performing just one song, “Hot N Cold” (sorry guys, no wardrobe malfunction). If not intriguing. it’s exhausting to watch.

i’m all for art, theatrics, performance. But what happens to the music, the reason these artists are recognized in the first place, when all we see are exploding lights, bedazzling dancers, and more outfits in one performance than most people have in their closet?

~End headlights~

Do you think the glitter distracts from the talent, or are the theatrics part of the point?

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Speaker Fruit

Anxiously awaiting a couple of new releases so i can put my proverbial thought pennies online, i thought i’d bide web time by piggy backing on last week’s Music Monday.

The Apples In Stereo

Playful Power Pop! That’s what i’ve termed the styled musings of The Apples In Stereo. The exuberant bliss of bright head-bobbing rhythms, founded in lo-fi guitars and propelled by bouncy sing-along melodies transform a grimace to a grin. i first discovered The Apples In Stereo in 1997 with “Seems So”(from their second release Tone Soul Evolution) that i received on an industry artist sampler. With inspiration primarily rooted in The Beach Boys, Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd, and The Beatles “Revolver” through “The Beatles (White Album)” pop epoch, TAIS were formed in 1992. Robert Schneider (not to be confused with the actor/comedian Rob Schneider), primary songwriter/lyricist, singer and guitar player formed The Apples with friends he’d met in his relocation from Louisiana to Colorado.

Despite the fuzzed out grooves of “Tidal Waves,” on their full-length 1995 debut Fun Trick Noisemaker reflecting a pop-soaked version of Sonic Youth, The Apples In Stereo found it complicated to find a place on radio in the early and mid ‘90s. It was difficult to gain notoriety as Pacific Northwest grunge artists and their imitators wrestled air control to build their musical kingdoms. The happiest music that you’ve never heard sometimes brings to mind saccharine tunes of The Partridge Family or The Starland Vocal Band, throwing in the occasional horn arrangement and vocal harmonies that would make Jeff Lynne proud. See why that really doesn’t work with the grunge movement?.

Though not a huge commercial success, The Apples In Stereo’s songs have appeared sporadically in television advertisements (“Energy” from New Magnetic Wonder (2007), was used in a world -wide Pepsi campaign); and Schneider has written special songs such as “Signal In The Sky (Let’s Go!),” (Let’s Go! , 2001), the Will Vinton (remember those dancing California Raisins?) directed video for the Cartoon Network’s glorious Powerpuff Girls inspired music; or the hilarious “Stephen, Stephen” contributed to The Green Screen Challenge on an episode of The Colbert Report.

Nowhere is The Beatles’ influence more prevalent than on the “Strawberry Fields” homage “Strawberryfire,” from Her Wallpaper Reverie (1999). The Zombies inspired psychedelic pop of “Stream Running Over” and the danceable hand-clapper “The Bird That You Can’t See,” both from The Discovery Of A World Inside The Moone (2000), are always fun songs. Speaking of fun, i dare you to frown and keep your head from bobbing while listening to the somber titled “Same Old Drag.”

Also try picking these from their tree: “Please,” The Velocity of Sound (2002); “Skyway,” New Magnetic Wonder (2007); “Dance Floor,” Travellers In Space And Time (2010).

Let me know what you think.

~End pome~

Not Just For The Lactose Tolerant

Over the years i have done everything from be a musician, concert promoter, freelance music journalist, review editor, industry marketing consultant, etc. Most of all i’m an audiophile, a self described music geek. Monday’s at lifeVertical will be devoted to music.

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Neutral Milk Hotel, circa 1998. Jeff Mangum is holding the angel.

The other day my son and i watching the final season episodes of my favorite sitcoms and one of the characters mentions Neutral Milk Hotel. It’s been ages since i’ve listened to them. So i dug out my NMH discs, ripped them to MP3 so i can strap them to myPod (when will someone come out with a descent portable flac player?).

Listening to long forgotten songs like Holland, 1945; Song Against Sex; Ghost; and In The Aeroplane Over The Sea bring to mind the instrument variation of Sufjan Stevens, the enthusiasm of Arcade Fire, and The Decemberists’ general song craft. What?! You’ve never heard of NMH? If you’re even a casual fan of the a fore mentioned artists you should at least give a seek to NMH on Youtube to see where they glean influence.

Neutral Milk Hotel is truly a lost treasure: ahead of their time, and whose time should now surely come. The brainchild of Jeff Mangum, their first full –length On Avery Island was released in 1996 and consists of simply Jeff on vocals and instrumentation with the aid of his pal Robert Schneider (who went on to form and front the Beatles-esque pop band The Apples In Stereo… one of my favorites) on production and various instruments.

On Avery Island was followed up in 1998 by the Anne Frank inspired concept album In The Aeroplane Over The Sea. After which, Mangum crawled under a rock and has barely been heard from since.

Any other NMH admirers out there or am i a stranger in a strange land? Otherwise, go check them out and leave feedback on your thoughts.

~End neutrality~